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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Philadephia Councilman Targets Rogue Towers

Here's the KYW Newsradio 1060 Philadelphia story:

by KYW's Mike Dunn

A Philadelphia Councilman on Thursday was to propose a bill targeting rogue tow truck operators -- specifically their practice of towing cars from driveways and lots even though the vehicles are legally parked.

Councilman-at-large Jim Kenney says most tow truck operators are on the up-and-up, but a handful regularly skirt the law:

"Its just an element of the industry that does not represent the majority of towers in the city, but an element of this industry that are basically acting in a criminal way to steal people's cars and shake them down for money."

Kenney says their latest scam is to tow cars that are parking perfectly legally on private lots or driveways:

"What we're dealing with now are rogue towers who go into a facility, take any random car they want and say it was illegally parked, with no record of who took the car, where it is, when it was taken. And people are just wandering around trying to find their car."

And the owner has to pay to get his car back:

"When they finally track down the car, then they go to this place locked down like Fort Knox, where you slip cash under a window to get your vehicle back. This is not the Wild West."

City attorneys believe it would be difficult to prosecute this as outright theft. So Kenney is introducing a bill that says no car can be towed from a lot or driveway unless it has been ticketed by police or the parking authority. He says this would amount to a neutral third party stipulating that the car truly should not be on the lot or driveway.

The parking authority, according to a top official there, has agreed to take part if the measure becomes law.

Violators, according to his bill, could be jailed for up to 90 days, though its unclear if that proposed provision could be enforced.

City controller Alan Butkovitz last fall released an audit accusing tow truck operators of routinely overcharging customers. City code currently limits tow truck fees to $150.

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